Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pinhead

by Kathy Miller Haines

For some reason, since the start of the New Year, I’ve been doing more and more things that are outside of my comfort zone.

It started with making press contacts for a trip I was taking to Houston. I'm terrible about self-promotion, it just feels so weird to me, but I decided that I needed to stop being a git and pick up the phone. Not only did I set up a signing at a great indie store, but I scored a radio interview to promote my book, which is something I'd never done before. I was petrified, but the host was awesome, the on-air time mercifully short, and my mother only took 85 pictures to capture the moment.

My next adventure was a new show my dinner theatre company was launching. It required two things of me: that I do an impersonation of an iconic performer and that I sing, both of which are things I don't exactly excel at. The night of the first show, I was nauseous with fear, convinced that I would forget my lines, fudge my lyrics, and the audience would mock my poor impersonation and rotten voice. Despite the overwhelming terror, it went okay and eventually doing the show got easier. While I’m not going to win any awards for my performance, I don’t have the familiar pit of dread in my stomach before each show either.

This week I decided to do something even more daring: I went to an acupuncturist. This is all part of my ongoing effort to conquer an issue I’ve written about before. At the urging of friends and family members, I decided it was time to veer off my beaten path and try something new, despite my crippling fear of needles.

Just like with the new show, I deliberated about doing this every waking moment before my appointment, conjuring the worst case scenarios that could befall me. It would hurt. I couldn’t afford it. I’d be the one person in the world for whom acupuncture would do more harm than good. The needles would be dirty. The acupuncturist I’d selected would be a nut who got off on disturbing my chi. A ceiling tile would fall on me, pushing in the needles deep into my…

Er…you get the idea. But I still went. And for two hours I was poked and prodded by a woman who seemed to have no nefarious intentions. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pleasant and relaxing. And I felt pretty darn satisfied with myself for making a plan and following through with it.

In the past I would’ve avoided all of these experiences entirely, sending out no press releases, deferring to another actor and conveniently losing the number for the acupuncturist. I’m a fear procrastinator which has an insidious way of affecting my writing as well. I get so caught up in the work I have ahead of me (research, revision, figuring out why that blasted scene just doesn’t work) that I look for ways to avoid doing the work or – worse – I submit to doing a half-assed job because I’m afraid to try something new and radical because it’s just not familiar to me.

But those days are behind me now. Now that I’m not making excuses in my daily life, I find that I’m not making nearly as many of them in my writing either. After all, I’ve had needles in my forehead and lived to tell about it.

How about you? How do your choices when you’re not writing spill into your writing process?

4 comments:

Cathy said...

I just LOVE acupuncture. I went to get my immune system kick-started, and quickly became a junkie. I get a feeling of peace from it, saw lights and colors, scenes. And I did get better, too, so I'm confident this will help you accomplish your mission. Who are you going to?

And get your writing done now. After he/she comes, no such luck.

mike said...

The falling ceiling tile says it all! Thanks, Kathy, for the all-too-vivid description of what fear can do to one's imagination. All I'll say is I know of what you speak. As for translating that into my writing, I'm not sure I've reached that point yet, tho the scene I'm struggling with now in my rewrite probably falls into that category. I do know that exposing myself to other writers and just talking about the process and the business has enabled me to break through some barriers, resulting in more interesting characters who have depth and meaning (at least I think they do!).

Kathy MH said...

Cathy,

I'm going to a woman in Shadyside who I really like so far.

Yep, Mike, being around other writers and hearing about their problems/solutions can do wonders for my writing as well. As can reading. It's amazing how many times I've had an "aha!" about my own work while reading someone elses.

Tory said...

I enjoyed acupuncture, too, the couple times I tried it.

Right now, I'm afraid, I'm procrastinating on my writing. I can't figure out whether to do what a love (fiction) that doesn't really fit with my life, or do what fits with my life (self-help book) but I can't get excited about.

As a therapist, I tell people if they just stick with the conflict long enough, they'll find a way through. And I'm pretty good as a therapist, so I must be right, right?